There are times in criminal cases where a person will enter a plea of nolo contendere, or “no contest.” This plea is usually used when a criminal defendant has caused some property damage or injury to another person during the course of the criminal act and he/she does not want to admit fault. By avoiding any fault, if the victim has a desire to sue the defendant in a civil court, the victim must prove that the defendant was at fault. As such, the defendant’s plea in the criminal case can not be used against the defendant in a subsequent civil case.
Court Must Find a Factual Basis for Your No Contest Plea
According to Penal Code section 1192.5, the court must inquire as to whether a factual basis for a no contest plea applies; the plea from a defendant must be voluntarily and intelligently made. The Court may satisfy this requirement by accepting a stipulation from the defendant’s attorney. A stipulation is an agreement as to certain facts that are not in dispute. If there is no factual basis for a plea, then the defendant can not be found guilty of the crime.
In a recent Court of Appeal case, People v. David Palmer, the court held that even if a defendant’s attorney’s stipulation did not refer to any specific facts about the underlying case, a defendant’s plea of no contest can still be accepted.
People v. David Palmer
In this case, David Palmer was charged with possession of ecstasy and marijuana for sale. Palmer’s attorney negotiated a no contest plea. In open court, Palmer’s attorney stipulated that there was a factual basis for the plea, but he did not state on the record what documents supported the stipulation. Palmer was sentenced to 270 days in jail for the no contest plea. Palmer appealed and argued that there was no factual basis for his plea as his attorney did not refer to any specific documents as facts in the stipulation. The Court of Appeal held that the attorney’s stipulation was enough for a factual basis.
The Court of Appeal reasoned that a court does not have to ask the attorney to refer to any specific documents when there is evidence that Palmer had discussed the plea with the attorney and was satisfied with the attorney’s advice to enter a plea of guilty
It is very important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to argue on your behalf and negotiate a no contest plea in certain situations. For example, a defendant may want to enter a no contest plea to crimes such as driving under the influence with injury or vandalism.
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At Wallin and Klarich we always strive to defend the rights of our clients and to ensure they are protected from any subsequent civil action.
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